“You’re rather masculine, aren’t you?!”
My 13 year-old-self stood, rooted to the spot; towering over my peers and the pretty, popular girls who had befriended this particularly gobby lad in the year above, who was desperately trying to impress them.
I could hear the girls stifling awkward giggles, and found myself juggling the urge to burst into tears with visions of ripping his smug face off.
Tipping 5’9” (and counting, back then), with size 8 feet and a dress-size-up from my own mother, I constantly felt like a giant sore thumb compared to the petite, dainty girls who were everywhere I looked. Even with my best mate coming in at just two inches shorter than me, I was nowhere near confident in my own skin, and hadn’t yet found much courage in my young voice, either.
But then all of a sudden, out of the blue, came my reply.
I coolly shrugged, and looked him dead in the eye: “I’m probably more masculine than you’ll ever be.”
The crowd cracked up. He stood there grappling for words. One of the girls turned to me, and through hysterical squeals uttered, “Great come-back!” I turned on my heels and marched off with my friends, perplexed as to what had just happened and very aware of the heartbeat inside my ears.
To this day, I still have no idea what came over that shy, self-conscious girl to produce that kind of SASS. I would truly love to go back in time and give younger-me a massive hug, for standing up for myself so hilariously.
And besides, what’s so bad about masculinity?! (Dictionary connotations include ‘strong’ and ‘bold’; I’ll take that…).
For me, this is one of those go-to memories that I believe defined my choice to pro-actively pursue confidence, over insecurity.
HUGE disclaimer: It hasn’t always been an easy process, and I absolutely have my demons. Tall ones, too.
But confidence isn’t necessarily a given for any of us; let alone those of us who defy ‘norms’ in some way or another. In every case; it’s always what we choose to do next, which shapes the way we see ourselves.
Having spent a significant chunk of my childhood looking like a grown-up, this story is one drawn from a selection which I’ve carried through the years… ultimately serving me with a hefty supply of opportunities to sink or swim in a body-conscious world.
And of course, I’m not alone in my experiences, either.
The Tall Guides community, #teamtall, recently did what they do best, and rallied around supportively to provide their stories, insights and personal experiences about growing from a tall teen into a tall woman.
I held a multi-option poll (turned MEGA discussion thread); the results of which you can check out here: Coming in at the highest number of votes? “At times, my height has reduced my confidence.”
But in third place sits this relatable heartbreaker: “I grew up trying to shrink myself.”
(My ‘Uncle Fester’ posture in all photos from my youth is a fabulous demonstration of this. I’ve really captured his essence…)
When we look back on our experiences as youngsters, it’s undeniable that many of us have shared times where we’ve felt like we ought to be different, in order to fit in. In order to blend in. And for some of us… The difficult reality is that we might feel like we’ve never really shaken it off.
BUT – there is good news.
Fourth position in the poll demonstrates that, for a vast number of us, “At times, my height has increased my confidence.”
So, what’s the big secret to converting our self-consciousness into our advantage, if we haven’t actually managed it before?
Here’s the frustratingly obvious and simple truth: It starts with self-acceptance.
Because confidence can start whenever you want it to. Not when you’re smaller, thinner, or taking up less ‘space’ for someone else’s comfort. Not when you weigh less, have learned more, or have climbed another ladder. Not when someone else gives you approval; not when you have more experience. Not even when you’re “finally ready”, (whatever the hell that looks like).
It starts with saying “This is who I am, right now… and I accept it.”
Every hour, every day, every week; until it starts to stick.
No judgements, no conditions, no expectations – just total self-acceptance there and then.
The truth is that we can only ever move forward once we fully accept the point we are starting from.
Without doing so, we are forever chasing goal posts which will be permanently out of our reach. The quickest route to confidence and everything that comes with it is accepting yourself, just as you are… over and over again.
And it starts now, if you want it to.
Part 2 of The Body Series Coming Soon: “I Weigh More Than My Dad”